1988 : Naguib Mahfouz

1988 : Naguib Mahfouz

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“who, through works rich in nuance – now clear-sightedly realistic, now evocatively ambiguous – has formed an Arabian narrative art that applies to all mankind”



December 11, 1911

Place of birth


Cairo, Egypt



August 30, 2006

Place of death


Cairo, Egypt







Notable award(s)


Nobel Prize in Literature 1988


Born in 1911 into a family of the middle class Cairo, he studied philosophy at the University of Cairo (then Fouad I University). He began to write at the age of 17 years and published his first test in writing literary journals of the 1930s. He published his first novel in 1939. His license in hand, he gets a government job and decides to devote himself to fiction rewriting of the history of Egypt. The relative failure of the first novels, in Pharaonic Egypt, and perhaps the urgency of the context (Egypt is severely affected by the outbreak of the Second World War) led him to abandon this project to delve into the story immediately. Now, his novels were set in contemporary Cairo, which he describes the social upheaval in a realistic vein (Passage work miracles, 1947; night Vienna, 1949).But the public success and critical recognition slow to come. In 1952, after completing the huge novel by over fifteen hundred pages which will become the Trilogy (Impasse two palaces, Palace of Desire, The Garden of the past), Mahfouz abandoned writing novels for the scenario – a form of Writing less noble but better paid. The publication of the trilogy in 1956 – 1957 will remove doubts. At forty-five years is finally recognized. With this family saga coupled with a historical fresco of Egypt, the revolution of the last 1919 years of monarchy, Mahfouz is in line with the new policy after the change of regime in 1952 and with a literary and artistic movement which favors realism in all its forms. Yet it distracts them with his next novel, Awlad Haratin (The children in our neighborhood in 1959, trad. The French son of the medina), turning in his career and in the history of the Arab novel. It revives in effect with the rich tradition of allegorical fiction to develop a critique of the authoritarian excesses of the Nasser and beyond, a pessimistic reflection on power. Published in drama in the daily Al-Ahram in 1959 and again in 1967, this novel has unleashed a virulent polemic. The book (and men) are attacked by the cleric who consider them blasphemous, and then struck the book is an informal ban publication in Egypt (it will be published in Beirut in 1967). This turbulent period in the life of the writer is described in the book Naguib Mahfouz, Hafida of Badre Hagil (see below “To learn more”). At the same time, the scandal is helping to establish its reputation and does not affect his career (when he held until his retirement in 1971, in positions of leadership in the cultural state apparatus). It publishes a lot of news in the press, repeatedly in collections, and nearly a novel a year, returning closer to a critical realism (derivatives on the Nile, 1966; Miramar, 1967) or hiding in his message Key texts (The Thief and the Dogs, 1961; Quest, 1965). His great realistic novels adapted to film one after another, giving it access to an incomparably larger than the writing. Near the angry young writers emerging in the years of turmoil following the disaster of 1967 – Gamal Ghitany, Sonallah Ibrahim Baha Taher, Ibrahim Aslan, Mohammed El Bisatie, etc.. – Mahfouz happy to resume his account in his subsequent novels, their aesthetic innovations. But when it returns to its favorite source of inspiration, the old Cairo from his childhood (our neighborhood Stories, 1975; The Song of beggar, 1977), it is at the top of his game. It is one of the few Egyptian and Arab intellectuals to have approved the peace accords between Egypt and Israel in 1979, while expressing full solidarity with the Palestinians. A position which earned him being boycotted in many Arab countries. In 2001, he was still supported a playwright excluded from the Egyptian Writers’ Union because favorable also to normalization with Israel. Both remained faithful to its political beliefs as liberal conception of literature, it appears in the 1980 master respected for his moral qualities and his contribution to the massive Arab novel, but often challenged for its policy options (including support the Egyptian-Israeli peace). The Nobel Prize awarded to him on 13 October 1988 will upset his routine retired, for better or for worse. The best: this prize, awarded to the first Arab writer, gives him access to the world market (translations are counted today by hundreds in dozens of languages). The worst: in a violent confrontation between power and the fraction of the radical Islamist opposition but also stiffening moral and religious aspects more or less all segments of Egyptian society, the controversy surrounding “The Son of the Medina “Awlad Haratin surfaced and Naguib Mahfouz miraculously survives an assassination attempt with knives (October 1994) perpetrated by two young members of Islamist fanatics al Jama’a al Islameya acknowledged that the trial did not read a single line of his work out of his home. Since he was paralyzed right hand and had ceased to write, forced to dictate his texts. Always great believer in the power of literature, he said after the assault: “The writing has many effects on culture and all the civilizational values” If there is one word that recurs frequently in his work, it is (al Hubb), Love, as depicted by Naguib Mahfouz keys with great delicacy, which can divert the preconceived ideas on the Arab world and Muslim.


Translations into English:

  • Midaq Alley / translated from Arabic by Trevor Le Gassick – Cairo : The American University in Cairo Press, cop. 1966

  • God’s World : an Anthology of Short Stories / transl. with an introd. by Akef Abadir and Roger Allen – Minneapolis : Bibl. Islamica, 1973

  • Mirrors : a novel / transl. from the Arabic by Roger Allen – Minneapolis : Bibl. Islamica, 1977

  • Miramar / edited and revised by Maged el Kommos, John Rodenbeck ; translated by Fatma Moussa Mahmoud – Cairo : The American University in Cairo Press, 1978

  • Children of Gebelawi / transl. by Philip Stewart – London : Heinemann, 1981

  • The Thief and the Dogs / translated by Trevor Le Gassick, M.M. Badawi ; revised by John Rodenbeck – Cairo : The American University in Cairo Press, 1984

  • Wedding Song / introduction by Mursi Saad El Din, translated from Arabic by Olive E. Kenny ; edited and revised by Mursi Saad El Din and John Rodenbeck – Cairo : The American University in Cairo Press, 1984

  • Autumn Quail / translated by Roger Allen ; revised by John Rodenbeck – Cairo : The American University in Cairo Press, 1985

  • The Beginning and the End / edited by Mason Rossiter Smith ; translated by Ramses Awad – Cairo : The American University in Cairo Press, 1985

  • The Beggar / translated by Kristin Walker Henry and Nariman Khales Naili al-Warraki – Cairo : The American University in Cairo Press, 1986

  • Respected Sir / translated by Rasheed El-Enany – Cairo : The American University in Cairo Press, 1987

  • The Search / edited by Magdi Wahba translated by Mohamed Islam – Cairo : The American University in Cairo Press, cop. 1987

  • Fountain and Tomb / translated from the Arabic by Soad Sobhy, Essam Fattouh, James Kenneson – Washington, D.C. : Three Continents Press, 1988

  • The Day the Leader Was Killed : a novel / translated with an introduction by Malak Hashem – Cairo : General Egyptian Book Organization, 1989

  • Palace Walk / translated by William M. Hutchins and Olive E. Kenny – Cairo : The American University in Cairo Press, 1989

  • Palace of Desire / translated by William Maynard Hutchins, Lorne M. Kenny, Olive E. Kenny – London : Doubleday, 1991

  • The Time and the Place and Other Stories / selected and translated by Denys Johnson-Davies – New York : Doubleday, 1991

  • The Journey of Ibn Fattouma / translated by Denys Johnson-Davies – New York : Doubleday, 1992

  • Sugar Street / translated by William Maynard Hutchins and Angele Botros Samaan – New York : Doubleday, 1992

  • Adrift on the Nile / translated by Frances Liardet – New York : Doubleday, 1993

  • The Harafish / translated by Catherine Cobham – New York : Doubleday, 1994

  • Arabian Nights and Days / translated by Denys Johnson-Davies – London : Doubleday, 1995

  • Children of the Alley / translated by Peter Theroux – New York : Doubleday, 1996

  • Echoes of an Autobiography / translated by Denys Johnson-Davies – New York : Doubleday, 1997

  • Akhenaten, Dweller in Truth / translated by Tagreid Abu-Hassabo – New York : Anchor Books, 2000

  • The Cairo Trilogy / translated by William Maynard Hutchins [et al.] ; with an introduction by Sabry Hafez – New York : Knopf, 2001 – Content: Palace walk ; Palace of desire ; Sugar street

  • Naguib Mahfouz at Sidi Gaber : Reflections of a Nobel laureate, 1994-2001 : from Conversations with Mohamed Salmawy – Cairo : The American University in Cairo Press ; Chichester : Wiley, 2001

  • Khufu’s Wisdom / translated by Raymond Stock – Cairo : The American University in Cairo Press, 2003

  • Rhadopis of Nubia / translated by Anthony Calderbank – Cairo : The American University in Cairo Press, 2003

  • Thebes at War / translated by Humphrey Davies – Cairo : The American University in Cairo Press, 2003

  • Voices from the Other World : Ancient Egyptian Tales / translated by Raymond Stock – Cairo : The American University in Cairo Press ; London : Eurospan, 2003

  • The Dreams / translated by Raymond Stock – Cairo : The American University in Cairo Press, 2004

  • Life’s Wisdom : From the Works of the Nobel Laureate / edited by Aleya Serour – Cairo : American Univ. in Cairo Press, 2006

  • Dreams of Departure : the Last Dreams Published in the Nobel laureate’s Lifetime / translated by Raymond Stock – Cairo : American Univ. in Cairo Press, 2007

  • Karnak Cafe / translated by Roger Allen – Cairo : American Univ. in Cairo Press, 2007

  • Morning and Evening Talk / translated by Christina Phillips – Cairo : American Univ. i Cairo Press, 2007

Literature (a selection):

  • Peled, Mattityahu, Religion, My Own : the Literary Works of Najib Mahfuz – New Brunswick, N.J. : Transaction Books, cop. 1983

  • Critical Perspectives on Naguib Mahfouz / edited by Trevor Le Gassick – Washington, D.C. : Three Continents Press, cop. 1991

  • Inani, Rasid al-, Naguib Mahfouz : the Pursuit of Meaning – London : Routledge, 1993

  • Naguib Mahfouz : from Regional Fame to Global Recognition / edited by Michael Beard and Adnan Haydar – Syracuse, N.Y. : Syracuse University Press, 1993

  • Moosa, Matti, The Early Novels of Naguib Mahfouz : Images of Modern Egypt – Gainesville, Fla. : University Press of Florida, 1994


1988: Nobel Prize in Literature.


Excerpt from Midaq Alley

Much testimony to Midaq Alley is a jewel from the past and that once absent like a shining star in Cairo honorable history. Which Cairo do I mean? Fatimid? Mamluckernas? The Sultan? It knows only Allah and archaeologists, but the alley is in any case, a monument and a precious one. How could it be otherwise when its paved street leads directly into the as-Sanadiqiya, this historic street, and when it has its famous coffee shop, cafe Kirch, whose walls are decorated by the booming Arab is the obvious old age, about to be destroyed and erased , And REEKING of strong odors from the old style medicine that over the years has become today’s and tomorrow’s drugs … Although Alley lives in almost total seclusion from the world around them priming the brusar of his special life, a life that deep down, is linked with the universal life roots, and it retains a number of secrets from a bygone world. The sun was going down and Midaq Alley was swept into a brown haze of dusk light. The darkness became more frequent as the alley was trapped between three walls. It opened against the as-Sanadiqiyagatan and then step up unevenly. On one side was the edge of a shop, a cafe and a bakery, on the other by a store and an office, whereupon it abruptly ended, and once its past glory, with two three-next to each other. Daily life had CALM and sensations of night life began to spread, a whisper here and there mutterings: O Lord, o tutors. O maintained, o Nadige. A high-end, O Lord. Good evening, everybody. Please and came into the evening well, wake up, Uncle Kamil and close your shop. Change the water in the water pipe, Sanqar. Extinguishing the oven, Jaada. Bhang press on my chest. If we have had a taste of horror blackout and air raids for five years, it is because of our wickedness. Two shops are however open to shortly after sunset – Uncle Kamil shop, he was selling sweets, to the right of the entrance to the alley, and raksalongen left thereon. It belongs to Uncle Kamil habits, or rather the rights, to place his chair on the threshold of the shop and slumber in with flugsmallan in the knee and he does not wake up unless the customer’s calling him or Abbas Barber fun of him. Uncle Kamil is a huge ball of man, his clothes are as tense lawless around his legs. Behind him the butt shooting out like a dome with its center on the chair and the periphery in the air. He has a belly like a barrel chest and almost as balls. The neck is not visible, between the shoulders sticking a round, uppsvallt, blood blasted face forward. Uppsvalldheten hide all features on the surface and you can hardly see an expression or a line, and neither the nose or eyes. The whole is crowned by a small bald pink skull. Uncle Kamil pustar and splashing as if he has just completed a sprinter races and he has hardly sold a sweet until drowsiness overwhelmed him. We have many times told him: You will die suddenly. The fat that press against your chest will kill you. And Kamil Uncle agree and disagree. But how would die to harm him when his life is an endless sleep. What raksalongen concern as it is considered elegant in the alley even if the store is small. There is a mirror and an armchair except those which are customary in the profession. The owner is a pale man of average height, something strongly built and with protruding eyes. The wavy hair is in yellow despite his brown skin. He wears a suit and is always careful apron, perhaps in the great masters after the result. Uncle Kamil and Barber remain in their shops while the large office next raksalongen are about to close offices and supermarkets leaving. The last to go is the director, Salim Ulwan. He STRUT in its flickering mantle and its gabberdine; he controls his step towards horse droskan waiting for him at the beginning of the alley, rising up with dignity in and fill his seat with his body adopting straw hut while about his mission mustache proudly pointing in front of him. Coachman kicks on the clock, the knockout force and droskan disappear against al-Ghouriya on its way to al-Hilmiya. The two houses at the back of the alley has closed their window grates against the cold and chinks between the lights from the light bulbs. Alley would drown in silence unless the electric light with flies all over the wires started to escape from Kirch cafe. Evening guests were about to take the cafe in possession. The cafe consists of a square room, SCRUFFY and in a state of decay, but still decorated with Arab happening. The former gloss live only remain in its history and in a number couch vulnerable here and there. At the entrance was a worker in the process of installing a used radio in the wall. Some HOOKAH men smoked and drank tea. Near the entrance sat a man in the fifty years old on a couch, wearing a cloak and tie as the Western-inspired’s practice and is fitted with precious GOLD-RIMMED glasses in the weak eye. He had put up sandals on the floor at his feet and sat rigid as a statue, silent as death, but to turn either right or left, as if he was living in a world of your own. Now came an old man in frayed in the cafe, one for whom life is not left a single healthy body. A young man led him in the left hand and right-hand bar him a fiddle and a book. He greeted the other guests, went to the couch in my room and walked with the help Ynglingen up on it. The boy climbed up beside him and placed the fiddle and the book between them. The man sat themselves and examined the faces around him to find out whether his presence made an impression on them. Subsequently he drew his carpet inflamed eye on the cafe boy Sanqar and waited impatiently; his pending drug at the time, and when he realized that the boy pretended not about him, he broke the silence and said retligt:

Presentation Speech:

Presentation Speech by Professor Sture Allen, of the Swedish Academy.

Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Ladies and Gentlemen,

On the Nobel Day, 10th December, 1911, Maurice Maeterlinck received that year’s Nobel Prize in Literature from the hands of King Gustavus V here in Stockholm. On the following day Naguib Mahfouz was born in Cairo. The capital of Egypt has remained his home and he has left it only on very rare occasions.

Cairo also provides, time and again, the setting for his novels, short stories and plays. There we find the throng in Midaq Alley, described in a manner that is both affectionate and translucent. There, in the great novel trilogy, Kamal faces the crucial questions of existence. There lies the houseboat which, in Chit-chat on the Nile, becomes a platform for conversations and animated discussions about social roles. There we meet the young lovers, preparing their bed amidst the blocks of the pyramid.

It is vital for a living society to take its authors seriously. They have learnt to see in the profoundest sense of the word, exploiting its full potential. This, in fact, represents a fundamental component shared by art and science alike.

One approach, among several others, to the works of this year’s Nobel Laureate is to read them as a committed, perceptive, almost prophetic commentary on the world around him. During a long writer’s life, he has witnessed sweeping social changes. Also, his production is uncommonly extensive.

In Arabic literature, the novel is actually a 20th-Century phenomenon, more or less contemporary with Mahfouz. And it was he who, in due course, was to bring it to maturity. Some of the milestones are Midaq Alley, The Trilogy, Children of Gebalawi, The Thief and the Dogs, Chit-Chat on the Nile, Respected Sir, and Mirrors. Greatly varied and partly experimental, these novels range from psychological realism to an allegorical and mystic-metaphysical design.

The nature of time is one of his basic preoccupations. As for last year’s Nobel Laureate, Joseph Brodsky, it takes on the character of mercilessness. “Time cuts like a sword”, it says in the novel Respected Sir. “If you don’t kill it, it kills you.”

For the numerous readers that Mahfouz had acquired through The Trilogy, with its broad canvas depicting contemporary life, Children of Gebelawi meant quite a surprise. The novel comes out as a spiritual history of mankind,’ presented in as many chapters as there are suras in the Koran, i.e. 114. The great figures of Judaism, Christianity and Islam – although recognizable – appear in disguise, facing new situations charged with tension. The man of modern science mixes, with equal skill, an elixir of love and an explosive. He bears the responsibility for the death of Gebelawi or God – but also perishes himself. Still, there is a glimmer of hope at the end of the novel. Mahfouz is not a pessimist, even though he is occasionally referred to as one. “If I were a pessimist”, he says, “I wouldn’t write.”

In the short stories, too, we meet the great existential themes: reason versus faith in God, love as a source of strength in an inexplicable world, the alternatives and limitations to an intellectual attitude, the existential struggle of exposed man.

Taking authors seriously does not always imply taking them literally. Mahfouz once said that he writes because he has two daughters in need of high-heeled shoes. Unconventional remarks like that may be – and have been – misunderstood. They tell us less about Mahfouz’s literary achievements than about his personality – moderate as well as serious and, at the same time, slyly humorous.

Naguib Mahfouz has an unrivalled position as spokesman for Arabic prose. Through him, in the cultural sphere to which he belongs, the art of the novel and the short story has attained international standards of excellence, the result of a synthesis of classical Arabic tradition, European inspiration and personal artistry.

For private reasons Mr. Mahfouz is unable to join us tonight. However, with your permission I should like to address him directly at this moment, using the medium of vision.

Dear Mr. Mahfouz,

Your rich and complex work invites us to reconsider the fundamental things in life. Themes like the nature of time and love, society and norms, knowledge and faith recur in a variety of situations and are presented in thought-provoking, evocative, and clearly daring ways. And the poetic quality of your prose can be felt across the language barrier. In the prize citation you are credited with the forming of an Arabian narrative art that applies to all mankind. On behalf of the Swedish Academy I congratulate you on your eminent literary accomplishments. And now, may I ask you, Miss Om Kalsoum Naguib Mahfouz, and you, Miss Fatma Naguib Mahfouz, to step forward to receive from the hands of His Majesty the King, on behalf of your father Naguib Mahfouz, the Nobel Prize in Literature 1988.

Nobel Lecture:

Ladies and Gentlemen,To begin with I would like to thank the Swedish Academy and its Nobel committee for taking notice of my long and perseverant endeavours, and I would like you to accept my talk with tolerance. For it comes in a language unknown to many of you. But it is the real winner of the prize. It is, therefore, meant that its melodies should float for the first time into your oasis of culture and civilization. I have great hopes that this will not be the last time either, and that literary writers of my nation will have the pleasure to sit with full merit amongst your international writers who have spread the fragrance of joy and wisdom in this grief-ridden world of ours.I was told by a foreign correspondent in Cairo that the moment my name was mentioned in connection with the prize silence fell, and many wondered who I was. Permit me, then, to present myself in as objective a manner as is humanly possible. I am the son of two civilizations that at a certain age in history have formed a happy marriage. The first of these, seven thousand years old, is the Pharaonic civilization; the second, one thousand four hundred years old, is the Islamic one. I am perhaps in no need to introduce to any of you either of the two, you being the elite, the learned ones. But there is no harm, in our present situation of acquaintance and communion, in a mere reminder.As for Pharaonic civilization I will not talk of the conquests and the building of empires. This has become a worn out pride the mention of which modern conscience, thank God, feels uneasy about. Nor will I talk about how it was guided for the first time to the existence of God and its ushering in the dawn of human conscience. This is a long history and there is not one of you who is not acquainted with the prophet-king Akhenaton. I will not even speak of this civilization’s achievements in art and literature, and its renowned miracles: the Pyramids and the Sphinx and Karnak. For he who has not had the chance to see these monuments has read about them and pondered over their forms.Let me, then, introduce Pharaonic civilization with what seems like a story since my personal circumstances have ordained that I become a storyteller. Hear, then, this recorded historical incident: Old papyri relate that Pharaoh had learned of the existence of a sinful relation between some women of the harem and men of his court. It was expected that he should finish them off in accordance with the spirit of his time. But he, instead, called to his presence the choice men of law and asked them to investigate what he has come to learn. He told them that he wanted the Truth so that he could pass his sentence with Justice.This conduct, in my opinion, is greater than founding an empire or building the Pyramids. It is more telling of the superiority of that civilization than any riches or splendour. Gone now is that civilization – a mere story of the past. One day the great Pyramid will disappear too. But Truth and Justice will remain for as long as Mankind has a ruminative mind and a living conscience.As for Islamic civilization I will not talk about its call for the establishment of a union between all Mankind under the guardianship of the Creator, based on freedom, equality and forgiveness. Nor will I talk about the greatness of its prophet. For among your thinkers there are those who regard him the greatest man in history. I will not talk of its conquests which have planted thousands of minarets calling for worship, devoutness and good throughout great expanses of land from the environs of India and China to the boundaries of France. Nor will I talk of the fraternity between religions and races that has been achieved in its embrace in a spirit of tolerance unknown to Mankind neither before nor since.I will, instead, introduce that civilization in a moving dramatic situation summarizing one of its most conspicuous traits: In one victorious battle against Byzantium it has given back its prisoners of war in return for a number of books of the ancient Greek heritage in philosophy, medicine and mathematics. This is a testimony of value for the human spirit in its demand for knowledge, even though the demander was a believer in God and the demanded a fruit of a pagan civilization.It was my fate, ladies and gentlemen, to be born in the lap of these two civilizations, and to absorb their milk, to feed on their literature and art. Then I drank the nectar of your rich and fascinating culture. From the inspiration of all this – as well as my own anxieties – words bedewed from me. These words had the fortune to merit the appreciation of your revered Academy which has crowned my endeavour with the great Nobel Prize. Thanks be to it in my name and in the name of those great departed builders who have founded the two civilizations.Ladies and Gentlemen,You may be wondering: This man coming from the third world, how did he find the peace of mind to write stories? You are perfectly right. I come from a world labouring under the burden of debts whose paying back exposes it to starvation or very close to it. Some of its people perish in Asia from floods, others do so in Africa from famine. In South Africa millions have been undone with rejection and with deprivation of all human rights in the age of human rights, as though they were not counted among humans. In the West Bank and Gaza there are people who are lost in spite of the fact that they are living on their own land; land of their fathers, grandfathers and great grandfathers. They have risen to demand the first right secured by primitive Man; namely, that they should have their proper place recognized by others as their own. They were paid back for their brave and noble move – men, women, youths and children alike – by the breaking of bones, killing with bullets, destroying of houses and torture in prisons and camps. Surrounding them are 150 million Arabs following what is happening in anger and grief. This threatens the area with a disaster if it is not saved by the wisdom of those desirous of a just and comprehensive peace.Yes, how did the man coming from the Third World find the peace of mind to write stories? Fortunately, art is generous and sympathetic. In the same way that it dwells with the happy ones it does not desert the wretched. It offers both alike the convenient means for expressing what swells up in their bosom.In this decisive moment in the history of civilization it is inconceivable and unacceptable that the moans of Mankind should die out in the void. There is no doubt that Mankind has at last come of age, and our era carries the expectations of entente between the Super Powers. The human mind now assumes the task of eliminating all causes of destruction and annihilation. And just as scientists exert themselves to cleanse the environment of industrial pollution, intellectuals ought to exert themselves to cleanse humanity of moral pollution. It is both our right and duty to demand of the big leaders in the countries of civilization as well as their economists to affect a real leap that would place them into the focus of the age.In the olden times every leader worked for the good of his own nation alone. The others were considered adversaries, or subjects of exploitation. There was no regard to any value but that of superiority and personal glory. For the sake of this, many morals, ideals and values were wasted; many unethical means were justified; many uncounted souls were made to perish. Lies, deceit, treachery, cruelty reigned as the signs of sagacity and the proof of greatness. Today, this view needs to be changed from its very source. Today, the greatness of a civilized leader ought to be measured by the universality of his vision and his sense of responsibility towards all humankind. The developed world and the Third World are but one family. Each human being bears responsibility towards it by the degree of what he has obtained of knowledge, wisdom, and civilization. I would not be exceeding the limits of my duty if I told thom in the name of the Third World: Be not spectators to our miseries. You have to play therein a noble role befitting your status. From your position of superiority you are responsible for any misdirection of animal, or plant, to say nothing of Man, in any of the four corners of the world. We have had enough of words. Now is the time for action. It is time to end the age of brigands and usurers. We are in the age of leaders responsible for the whole globe. Save the enslaved in the African south! Save the famished in Africa! Save the Palestinians from the bullets and the torture! Nay, save the Israelis from profaning their great spiritual heritage! Save the ones in debt from the rigid laws of economy! Draw their attention to the fact that their responsibility to Mankind should precede their commitment to the laws of a science that Time has perhaps overtaken.I beg your pardon, ladies and gentlemen, I feel I may have somewhat troubled your calm. But what do you expect from one coming from the Third World? Is not every vessel coloured by what it contains? Besides, where can the moans of Mankind find a place to resound if not in your oasis of civilization planted by its great founder for the service of science, literature and sublime human values? And as he did one day by consecrating his riches to the service of good, in the hope of obtaining forgiveness, we, children of the Third World, demand of the able ones, the civilized ones, to follow his example, to imbibe his conduct, to meditate upon his vision.Ladies and Gentlemen,In spite of all what goes on around us I am committed to optimism until the end. I do not say with Kant that Good will be victorious in the other world. Good is achieving victory every day. It may even be that Evil is weaker than we imagine. In front of us is an indelible proof: were it not for the fact that victory is always on the side of Good, hordes of wandering humans would not have been able in the face of beasts and insects, natural disasters, fear and egotism, to grow and multiply. They would not have been able to form nations, to excel in creativeness and invention, to conquer outer space, and to declare Human Rights. The truth of the matter is that Evil is a loud and boisterous debaucherer, and that Man remembers what hurts more than what pleases. Our great poet Abul-‘Alaa’ Al-Ma’ari was right when he said:

“A grief at the hour of deathIs more than a hundred-foldJoy at the hour of birth.”

I finally reiterate my thanks and ask your forgiveness.


Naguib Mahfouz book

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